Claude Troin (detail) View full image

Claude Troin (1938 - 2019)

A fond farewell

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Claude Troin - who lost his battle with cancer last week, dying in his home town of Annot. He is survived by his son, film maker - Izu Troin, with whom he was discussing Polanski until the end.

“Love, work and knowledge are the well-springs of our life. They should also govern it.”

Wilhelm Reich

Claude entered the world on 16 June 1938. He was born in a small power station on the outskirts of Annot, in the region of Alpes de Haute Provence, France. His mother, a seamstress, and father, a non-commissioned navy officer, moved to Annot for the duration of the Nazi occupation of Vichy France. It was at this time that the young Claude became conscious of the division between religious and secular society in France. In 1950 the Troin family moved to Nice, where Claude often avoided school in favour of days spent in the woods and by the stream on La Colline du Château (‘Castle Hill’).

Although Troin dreamed of travelling, he was too young to enlist in the navy; instead, he enrolled as a student at the National School of Decorative Arts (École nationale des arts décoratifs) in Nice. Troin graduated in 1958 with a first prize in sculpture and a second prize in painting.

During the late 1950s Troin forged an enduring bond of friendship with fellow artist Ben (Vautier) and, thanks to his introduction, first encountered the politician and founder of the Parti National Occitan, François Fontan (1929-1979). Fontan called for national borders to be revised to reflect the realities of linguistic distribution and replace arbitrary geo-political boundaries imposed by colonial powers or set by the victors of armed conflict. His theories of ‘scientific humanism’, outlined in the book Ethnisme, left an indelible impression on Troin’s political worldview

Politics and ethnic identity dominated Claude Troin’s thinking at this time. He became aware of Occitan culture and studied the works of anthropologists such as Bronisław Malinowski, Margaret Mead and Claude Lévi-Strauss as well as the Austrian-American psychiatrist and psychologist Wilhelm Reich. “The more I discover the history of a shifting world,” the artist recalls, “the more I practise on canvas to mark my references and concentrate my energy on finding a sense, a fact that would reveal a truth.”

After moving to Paris to continue his studies at the Académie Julian, Troin’s works were exhibited at the Suillerot Gallery. Following an unhappy year as a conscript in the French Army, during which he was hospitalised due to an injury, he returned to Annot in 1962 and established his studio there. His interest in cross-cultural collaboration and passion for the exchange of political ideas continued to evolve, informed by meetings with politicians and fellow artists in Nice. Troin also introduced so-called Lettrist concepts of the Romanian-born French artist and poet Isidore Isou (1935-2007) into his work for the first time.

From 1963 to the early 1970s, Troin distilled aspects of François Fontan’s thinking into his paintings and drawings. Major works from this period include The Stake of Montségur (1963) and The Battle of Muret (1964), each depicting the persecution of the medieval Cathars, and two paintings, For a man and For a country (1974), dedicated to Salvador Allende and Chile. His work was exhibited at the third Biennale de Paris (1963) and regularly appeared at the Biennale Internationale d’Art in Menton. Following his marriage in 1974, Troin worked as bookseller.

Claude Troin’s art was subsequently championed by Maurice Jardot, an influential director of the Galerie Louise Leiris in Paris. His work developed thanks to the rediscovery of approaches to forms and volumes acquired during student days in Nice and his introduction to fresco techniques by Patrice Giuge. Vast canvases became the platform for Troin’s tireless work in the early 1980s, presented in 1985 in a landmark exhibition at the Nice Centre for Contemporary Art (now known as the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art). In the early 1990s, Troin moved his studio to the disused Gare du Sud in Nice and continued producing works on monumental canvases, including two enormous paintings of The Last Supper, one conceived as a medieval banquet, the other as a rebirth feast. Troin’s output increased dramatically after he returned to Annot in 1995, encouraged by the support of the local art-lover and collector Jean Queyrel.

The artist’s Requiem was exhibited for the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of the Mediterranean Union for Modern Art (UMAM) in 1996 at the Galerie des Ponchettes in Nice. In 2000, at the invitation of its director Frédéric Altmann, the Centre international d'art contemporain de Carros presented a major retrospective of Troin’s recent work.

For many years Claude explored a fascination with the art produced by a 'primitive society'. The foundation painting within Camera obscura was realised in 2007. In 2014, when Izù Troin was asked to produce a film to celebrate the Chauvet Caves a collaboration formed. Through studying the paintings found deep in the caves and using tools virtually unchanged, homemade charcoal and precious pigments, Claude has created images that vividly recall the world of 36,000 years ago.

Through film and with light, and using charcoal and paint, the two artists developed a contemporary abstraction of shapes and textures. The resulting film was part of a collection of 15 short films entitled 36 000 Years Later, produced by Folimage with ARTE and the support of the Rhône-Alpes region. The films were premiered in the UK at the Private View on 2 July.

"From deep in the Chauvet Cave, the visual expressions of an ‘animal society’ resonate across time with our modern perception. They bind us to our predecessors and allow us to catch a glimpse of the souls of an ancient society.

Their meaning both expands and refines our contemporary understanding of the continuing human story. We are connected to this new 'appearance of man' through a piece of charcoal and through our wild thoughts, bridging the 36,000 year gap." Claude Troin

Solo exhibitions of Claude Troin’s paintings were held at Maestro Arts in July/August 2013 and September 2015, while further works were included in a group show in March 2014. Claude last exhibited at Maestro Arts in January 2016.